Unless a high school football game goes to overtime, rarely, if at all, do the co-captains meet at midfield after 48 minutes of action.
But this wasn't really a game as it was a tribute. LaPorte (LaPorte, Ind.)
High School, just 48 hours after teammate Jake West
died of cardiac arrest on the practice field due to an enlarged heart,
traveled to Merrillville
for a regular-season contest.
As this outstanding video reveals, Jake's memory was honored at every corner of the stadium – his number was on the side of helmets, fans wore sweatshirts and t-shirts with his number and name on the back.
And in a moving tribute, right before the action began, LaPorte players huddled close, held the side of their helmets for a second and then pointed to the sky to acknowledge their friend and teammate, described by all as a kind, vivacious, giving lad.
They also carried Jake's jersey out to midfield during the coin toss and it was later presented to his sister Courtney West by players Drew Kessler
and Noah Boardman
"It was just awesome," friend and teammate John Shuble told the heraldargus.com
. "I'm speechless. I can't say how awesome that was. It felt like Jake was with us the whole time."
Said LaPorte coach Bob Schellinger: "It was really tough. Jake was awesome. These kids went through something this week that most adults have never gone through, watching a friend pass away right in front of them. And the way that they have handled it has just been tremendous. I'm so proud of these kids."
To finish things off — following Merriville's 34-13 victory — a No. 26 flag that flew high on a flagpole throughout the game, was taken down and presented to captains Shuble and Mike Ash
by the Merriville captains at midfield. The players shook hands and embraced.
It capped off a very touching and sportsmanlike contest.
Schellinger gave major kudos to Merriville athletic director Janis Qualizza and Merriville coach Zac Wells after the game. "You talk about class acts," he told Herald Argus reporter Zack Eldridge.
Those acts were contagious throughout the night.